The Bulgarian Government has reportedly approved a deal with the US to purchase eight F-16 fighter aircraft for an estimated cost of $1.256bn.

Bulgaria intends to replace its ageing Soviet-made MiG-29 fleet with the Lockheed Martin-manufactured F-16s.

The procurement will also enable the country to improve compliance with Nato standards.

The deal is expected to come to a vote in parliament next week.

Bulgaria Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov stated that the total cost of the deal could be reduced by $60m, Reuters reported.

Deputy Defence Minister Atanas Zapryanov was quoted by the news agency as saying: “A long-standing airforce dream happened at last. It puts them on an equal footing with our Nato partners.

“Our airforce will have confidence that they have something as contemporary and up-to-date as our colleagues.”

The procurement is set to include six single-seat and two two-seat F-16 aircraft. The delivery of the aircraft would be completed by 2023.

According to Bloomberg, the government is looking to sign four contracts for fighters, equipment, ammunition and surveillance systems.

The parliament earlier approved an initial budget allocation of $1bn for the procurement. To fund the purchase, the Bulgarian Government is expected to raise the outlay in the budget.

Bulgaria’s bid to secure the new aircraft comes after the US State Department approved a possible sale of eight F-16C/D Block 70/72 aircraft and related equipment in June.

According to aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the Block 70 variant will provide the Bulgarian Air Force with some of  the most advanced fourth-generation fighter aircraft capabilities.